Sentencing Commission Makes Crack Penalty Reductions Retroactive

By a unanimous vote, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has made its November, 2007 reduction in crack cocaine penalties retroactive. The effective date is March, 2008. The statement is here.

This is very good news, but note the limitations:

Not every crack cocaine offender will be eligible for a lower sentence under the decision. A Federal sentencing judge will make the final determination of whether an offender is eligible for a lower sentence and how much that sentence should be lowered. That determination will be made only after consideration of many factors, including the Commission’s direction to consider whether lowering the offender’s sentence would pose a danger to public safety. In addition, the overall impact is anticipated to occur incrementally over approximately 30 years, due to the limited nature of the guideline amendment and the fact that many crack cocaine offenders will still be required under Federal law to serve mandatory five- or ten-year sentences because of the amount of crack involved in their offense.


...The Commission’s actions today, as well as promulgation of the original amendment for crack cocaine offenses, are only a partial step in mitigating the unwarranted sentencing disparity that exists between Federal powder and crack cocaine defendants. The Commission has continued to call on Congress to address the issue of the 100-to-1 statutory ratio that drives Federal cocaine sentencing policy. Only Congress can provide a comprehensive solution to a fundamental unfairness in Federal sentencing policy. The Commission has consistently expressed its readiness and willingness to work with Congress and others in the criminal justice community to address this very important issue.

Other statements on the decision: FAMM.

More on this here.

As for how a defendant would go about seeking a reduction, 18 USC 3582(c) seems to apply.
(c) Modification of an Imposed Term of Imprisonment.— The court may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed except that— ....(2) in the case of a defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994 (o), upon motion of the defendant or the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, or on its own motion, the court may reduce the term of imprisonment, after considering the factors set forth in section 3553 (a) to the extent that they are applicable, if such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.

Update: New York Times report.

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